I wore a three-button blue suit and rep tie, à la Vance, and Allen-Edmond cordovan kilties. Except for the kilties the look was very un-Archy, but business is business.
Commandeering the stool next to Ginny, I opened with, "Givenchy?"
The lady was quick on the uptake. "How kind," she cooed. "But no. It's from a shop in South Beach. They call it a knockoff."
"A knockoff for a knockout," I retorted, wishing I had a waxed mustache to stroke. "May I buy you a drink?"
Ginny giggled. "I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers."
For this, Vivian Leigh and Tennessee Williams should have risen from their graves and strangled her.
One word led to another, one drink led to another, and Ginny's hand led to my thigh, a territory she seemed to know rather well. All of this led to her motel room, where she plied me with cheap gin and suggestive gestures. When her cavorting failed to arouse her supposed mark, Ginny grew a bit frantic and announced that she was going to adjourn to the bathroom and "slip into something comfortable."
This was my cue to ring down the curtain on this farce. "Forget it, my dear," I told Ginny, "your Richard Avedon ain't showing up tonight."
That got her attention. "What are you talking about?"
"Snap, snap, pop, pop, five grand, and Bob's your uncle."
"Are you a cop?"
"No, but as we speak, your partner is handing over his photographic endeavors to one of Palm Beach's finest."
The sudden realization that she had been set up caused her to lose her cool and she shouted, "You skunk. You . . ."
I held her wrists in a firm grip to keep her ruby-tinted claws from gouging out my eyes. "The fix was in all the while," she ranted. "What do you want from me?"
To a woman in Ginny's profession, my retort had but one meaning. Her little hands stopped fighting my grip and she was once again ready to slip into something comfortable. "I wouldn't let him take your picture, Archy," she purred.
"You know why not." She actually blushed as she spoke. Mata Hari, meet your master. "I like you, Archy."
Al Rogoff was not going to arrest her friend, for it would serve no purpose. Vance would have to press charges, and he might as well have the pair show the photos to Penny as do that. Al was going to put the fear of God in the guy and tell him and the lovely Ginny to get out of town.
But Ginny didn't know this, so when I said, "And I like you, Ginny. That's why I'm going to walk out of here and forget we ever met, if you hand over the negatives of last night's 'shoot'-and while you're at it, any other negatives you might be hoping to turn into ready cash."
Knowing a good deal when she heard one, Ginny complied while continuing to make suggestive gestures in hopes of a last minute reprieve. "Can I keep the ones from Disney World?" she asked.
"Absolutely not," I scolded.
I left with my cache, wondering if I had saved Mickey a lot of grief.
Father was in his den. I knocked.
"Come," he called.
He was sitting in the swivel chair behind his enormous desk, reading Dickens. "Yes, Archy?"
"The Tremaine case is closed, sir."
"Very good, Archy."
"Would you like to hear about it, sir?"
"No, Archy. Would you like a glass of port?"
"I think I would, sir."
And that, as they say, was that.
Reprinted from McNally's Dilemma by Vincent Lardo by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1999 by Lawrence A. Sanders Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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